Darby adopts origins policy
Darby adopts origins policy
By JENNY JOHNSON Staff Reporter, Ravalli Republic, Feb 3, 2004, original
DARBY - Despite legal recommendations advising against the action, Darby School Board trustees Monday adopted an objective origins policy that will allow the school's science curriculum to teach theories other than evolution.

Trustees voted 3-2 to adopt the policy - Mary Lovejoy and Bob Wetzsteon opposed the policy, and Chairwoman Gina Schallenberger, Doug Banks and Elisabeth Bender voting for the policy change.

"This is not a good policy to adopt," Lovejoy said. "We need to go to the state before we consider this."

Wetzsteon, the other nay vote, said he didn't understand how the board can go against the recommendation of the school board's attorney.

Attorneys from the Montana School Boards Association and the county advised against the policy adoption, citing a likelihood that the district would be sued and may lose accreditation.

Banks, however, said, "To consider that a theory can't be challenged is bad science. I think that what we're doing here is setting the tone for where Darby is heading."

Trustees returned to the table Monday, continuing a meeting into its third night. After dozens of comments from the concerned citizens on both sides of the issue, trustees adopted the policy.

The policy is based on a push to teach intelligent design - a biological origins theory that assumes there is a designer of the biological world. Critics argue that the theory is speculation not accepted in the scientific community and a guise to introduce Biblical creationism in a public school setting.

Science teachers from Darby and Corvallis voiced concerns about changing the science curriculum, saying that teachers are sensitive to the social aspects of evolution and that evolution is the standard accepted in state and federal accreditation standards.

Darby's policy doesn't specifically include language requiring intelligent design to be a part of science class, but instructs teachers to challenge the theory of evolution. Teachers are "encouraged to help students assess evidence for and against theories, to analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the theory of evolution."

Intelligent design theory is not part of the state defined basic instructional program, while evolution is. Adopting the policy means trustees will have to change the district's curriculum to support it.

Darby parent and minister Curtis Brickley proposed the policy change and caught the attention of many community members with a multi-media presentation supporting intelligent design. He argued the theory is based in science and is not an attempt to teach creationism.

The U.S. Supreme Court has emphatically ruled against the teaching of creationism in public schools and evolution has been the benchmark of science curriculum since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Reporter Jenny Johnson can be reached at 363-3300 or jjohnson@ravallirepublic.com